B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver mentioned Burns Lake as one of the towns that would be considered for a pilot project that would provide basic income to all residents.
In the project project, all residents of one or two communities would receive basic income for at least five years. The proposed project is intended to put the basic income policy to the test and measure its results.
According to Stefan Jonsson, director of communications for the B.C. Greens, other towns being considered include Prince Rupert and Port Alberni.
“We’re currently in the process of determining appropriate communities for the pilot – based on size, state and basis of economy,” he said. “We haven’t narrowed it down to a shortlist.”
Weaver says on his blog that a basic income for all citizens has the potential to raise recipients out of poverty.
“Living in poverty takes a significant toll, and the elevated levels of stress that it brings are associated with higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, and mental health problems,” he said.
“For those needing support, our current system of social programs has a number of shortcomings,” he continued. “The siloed approach – with a myriad of different programs with specific eligibility criteria – allows people to slip through the cracks in the system and leaves many unsure which benefits they are eligible for; it also has a substantial administrative cost.”
In addition, Weaver says there is significant stigma in collecting welfare today, and that many argue that the invasiveness of the current approach – with its stringent conditionality and reporting requirements – strips recipients of privacy and dignity.
“The current system may provide a disincentive for many to join the workforce, due to how quickly the benefits are reduced as any income is earned,” he added.
Furthermore, Weaver says a basic income could also provide a means to respond proactively to the changes that are happening in the labour market.
“As the effects of automation are realized, providing a basic income would enable those affected to retrain for new professions, attend or return to university or college, take entrepreneurial risks, contribute to their communities or other causes through volunteering and civic engagement, and invest time in their families.”
However, Weaver admits that a challenge in considering a basic income scheme would be predicting its effects on the labour market, saying it might provide a “disincentive to work” comparable to or stronger than the disincentive often associated with the current social assistance programs.
Weaver has been gathering public feedback – via comments on his website, Facebook, and e-mails/calls to his MLA office – on the idea of a basic income policy, as well as on how residents would like to see it implemented.
“We encourage everyone to share their thoughts with us,” said Jonsson. “We very much want our platform to be built on the values of participatory democracy and evidence-based decision making; everyone’s feedback will be very important to final platform decisions.”